Car reviews - Holden - Captiva - 5-dr wagon range
ESP, equipment levels, solid build quality, rough-road ride comfort, communicative steering
Room for improvement
Transmission reluctant to kick-down, flat seat cushions front and rear, large thin-rimmed steering wheel, side airbags optional on SX, Blank dash storage area on low-spec variants
11 Oct 2006
By CHRIS HARRIS
ESSENTIALLY there are two distinct models in the Captiva lineup despite the four variants being marketed under the one nameplate.
Three, the SX, CX and LX are just called Captiva while the fourth, the Captiva Maxx is a distinctly European offering that – for an extra $1000 above LX – is the range-topper.
Confused? We were. It’s taking some time to get our heads around the fact that Holden’s newest V6 four-wheel drive offers two visually disparate models that share the same engine and drivetrain.
At the launch in Canberra of the all-wheel drive, Holden did not have any Maxxes to drive but some of the key Holden engineers claim it is a bit sportier, has more direct steering and is more "European" in its handling.
If the competent SX, CX and LX are any guide, we look forward to driving the Maxx.
Holden’s first serious crack at the medium SUV segment has delivered an agreeable off-roader that will be expected to draw sales not only from the Ford Territory, but a raft of other soft-roaders.
Although Holden is aiming at Captiva and Maxx at the Territory, the truth is that the Holden badge, and the car itself, will drag buyers from a broader field – Hyundai Tucson, Subaru Forester, Mazda Tribute, Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4/Kluger, Honda CR-V and Nissan X-Trail.
Size-wise, the Captiva has similar physical dimensions as the Toyota RAV4 but sits on a 47mm longer wheelbase – 2707mm versus 2660mm on the RAV4.
Then there is the issue of engines. Many of its rivals offer high-end four-cylinders while Mazda, Kia and Hyundai are the only ones with V6 variants.
The SX, CX and LX are 4637mm long, 1849mm wide (excluding mirrors), 1720mm high with a 200mm ground clearance.
By comparison the Maxx is 4570mm long, 1700mm high and 1850mm wide (excluding mirrors), making it 67mm shorter with 20mm less height but 1mm wider than its siblings.
It is no surprise that Holden has pitched the Captiva right in the middle of the medium SUV brigade with the option of five or seven seats, this is what buyers want in their SUV apparently.
The SX have five seats, the CX and LX seven seats and the Maxx, in keeping with its sportier pretensions, also has five-seats. Its size has helped deliver plenty of leg and head room for all passengers, while the third-row pew is strictly a children’s affair.
With prices kicking off at $35,990 for the SX, rising to $42,990 for the range-topping Maxx, there’s a lot of bang for your buck.
All models boast ESP, active rollover protection, hill descent control, ABS with brake assist, 17-inch alloys, in-dash CD stereos (six disc in all models except the SX, MP3 compatibility, tinted electric windows/mirrors, cruise control and air conditioning with a particle filter.
The LX and Maxx gain leather upholstery and larger 18-inch alloys.
A space-saver spare is housed under the rear luggage floor in a wind-down cradle. Importantly, a flat full-size spare will also fit in the cradle.
In keeping with its positioning, the Maxx has and Astra-style dashboard and centre console, leather-faced sports seats, leather-wrap three-spoke steering wheel, eight-way adjustable driver’s seat, driver information centre display, dual front, side and curtain airbags, seatback pockets and under-seat storage tray, electric windows/mirrors and climate control air conditioning.
All variants are powered by a 3.2-litre version of Holden’s Alloytec V6, which in the SX, CX and LX, develops 169kW at 6600rpm and 297Nm at 3200rpm, while the Maxx is 3kW down on power because of its different exhaust system.
The SX, CX and LX return 11.5L/100km and the Maxx 11.6L/100km. We manages around 12.0L/100km in a mix of gravel and freeway driving so these figures seem attainable.
Diesel lovers can also look forward to a 110kW/320Nm 1.9-litre turbo-diesel model early next year, the same engine that powers the Astra CDTi.
Like some of its competitors, the Captiva’s all-wheel drive system is a relatively simple affair with an electronically controlled clutch pack to ensure traction is distributed when it is needed most.
In every day driving the Captiva is front-wheel drive. If the clutch system detects slippage it will redistribute torque between the front and rear axles "within 100 milliseconds", according to Holden. The system is light weight, cheap to build and maintenance free.
So does the Captiva live up to the Holden hype?
Well, visually the overall design is well executed, slightly muscular but should not alienate woman drivers, who will appreciate its visibility, ease of entry and practicality of the third-row seats.
Kudos must go to former Holden chief of design, Mike Simcoe, who was largely responsible for the Captiva’s look.
Like the S3X concept car, upon which the Captiva is based, the bonnet is contoured with crease lines that run from the grille up and into the A-pillar, continuing right over the roof. It provides a sporty profile.
A prominent crease down the side of the car, neatly integrating the door handles, while the mudguard vents (or indicator lights depending on model) provide an interesting design detail.
Inside there is none the expected Korean cheapness, or smell, to found in the cabin plastics. The execution is a notch-up from anything we’ve previously experienced from a Korean-sourced Holden with tactile, sensibly located switchgear and logical instruments.
There are some minor quibbles, however.
The large hole at the top of the console on the base model, where the optional satellite navigation goes, looks like an afterthought. Granted, there’s a lid on it but who wants to be reminded they’re driving the entry model? The latch too is fiddly to use.
The "three-quarter" size spacesaver spare may also present problems for those people intending to go off-road. We suspect very few will though.
We also have issues with the steering wheel on the base models. It looks like it has come from the GM parts bin number with a large – and thin rim – which makes it uncomfortable to use and slippery around town. The Maxx is said to get a thicker, smaller rim.
The single middle row flip-fold rear seat is also positioned on the road-side of the car, not the kerb side. This means extra care when loading children into the rear-most seat.
At least the driving position is comfortable. The front seats have supportive backrests but the cushions are flat.
There’s height and reach adjustable steering wheel and the aircraft-like hand-brake lever is easier to use than in the Commodore.
The ‘press-extend’ front headrests and fold-flat front passenger’s seat for added loading length show that some thought has gone into the car’s practicality.
On the road too, the Captiva continues to surprise and delight.
At highway speeds all is quiet with the 3.2-litre V6 ticking over at 2200rpm at 110km/h. The cabin is well insulated from wind noise and even the large exterior mirrors do not upset the cabin serenity.
The five-speed automatic is smooth around town but the transmission mapping seems a little out of sync with the 3.2-litre V6 on the highway, when you need the power most – and quickly - for overtaking.
Considering the LX weighs in at 1805kg - about the same as a mid-range Commodore - the five-speed auto feels a tad reluctant to change down, even with modest pressure on the accelerator.
We took to slipping the shifter into sequential mode and revving the engine up to 6000rpm to get the best out of the 169kW V6. Peak power is at 6900rpm so the engine needs plenty of work to keep it on the boil.
Build quality in all the cars driven, SX, CX and LX, was surprisingly good. Dust sealing was also up to Aussie standards, keeping the fine dust of the dirt roads around Yass. This is no surprise because Holden engineers played a big part in the car’s dynamics – ride, suspension and steering – and dust sealing.
Ride comfort is also impressive, with the Captiva displaying a well controlled ride on gravel corrugations with a high enough handling threshold for fun driving before the ESP is activated. The steering too was communicative and body roll is reasonably contained.
Depending on the model, buyers will get Hankook or Kumho tyres while upper-spec cars gain Dunlop Sport 270s.
Given our previous experience with some of Holden’s Korean-sourced product – Barina and Viva come to mind – the Captiva is a breath of fresh air.
If the initial drive is any indication, this is the first Korean-built Holden that will help bury the "Korean" tag for once and all.
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